Tim Flatman (Solidarity 3/192) claims labour movement organisations were “culturally alien” to South Sudan and that we should not “impose” them on the new country.
Undoubtedly, labour movements as we know them in the advanced-capitalist world cannot be wished into being in a massively less developed country. But what is the “culture” that workers’ organisation seeks to embody? Simply the “culture” of organising the exploited against their exploiters. This is something common to all human culture throughout history.
Even in a country where advanced-capitalist class-relations do not yet predominate, organisational forms based on a struggle against exploitation will emerge... in their own specific way for sure, but with the same basic template. Some of the most inspiring recent instances of worker-organisation have not come from the advanced-capitalist west but from countries like Indonesia, Nigeria, Eritrea.
As Tim’s own reports show, there are ongoing efforts to build workers’ organisation (not “imposed” but fought for by South Sudanese workers themselves), and Tim is right to call for our solidarity. But if we start giving ground to the idea that certain things are simply too “culturally alien” for countries like South Sudan then where do we draw the line? What else is “culturally alien”? Democracy? Human rights? Relativism is a slippery slope.